Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors – Focus on Qalqily

March 01, 2004

When Ariel Sharon was asked by Winston S. Churchill III, grandson of the former

British prime minister, in 1973 how Israel will deal with the Palestinians, he responded:
“We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them, we’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years’ time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”1

Israel wants Palestinian land but it doesn’t want the Palestinian people. Consequently, the Wall is part of a strategy to annex large parts of Occupied Palestinian Territory while caging in large Palestinian population centers. Once complete, the indigenous Palestinian population will be restricted to reservations constituting less than 13% of historic Palestine while illegal Israeli settlers will be able to freely travel throughout Occupied Palestinian Territory.

If the Wall were truly about security, the Wall would have been built on Israel’s 1967 pre-occupation border (the “Green Line”). However, the Wall is not being built on the Green Line, but rather well within Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Case of Qalqilya – Surrounding and Isolating an Entire City

The governorate of Qalqilya is comprised of 32 villages with approximately 86,000 Palestinians and 19 illegal Israeli colonies with an estimated illegal Israeli settler population of 50,700 (as of January 1, 2000).

The city of Qalqilya has approximately 43,000 Palestinian residents living on approximately 4,200 dunums2 of developed land (4 dunums = 1 acre). There is only an additional 700 dunums of land deemed for development in the city’s master plan. An additional 15,000 dunums of Qalqilya’s agricultural land surround the city.

Qalqilya sits atop the Western aquifer basin, one of the three major aquifer basins in the Occupied West Bank. This aquifer basin, which stretches along the Green Line, generates an average sustainable yield of 362 million cubic meters of water annually, and produces approximately half of the Occupied West Bank’s water resources.

Prior to September 29, 2000, the start of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, 22% of Qalqilya’s economy was based on agricultural produce, including fruit and vegetable orchards, apiaries, greenhouse nurseries and livestock. Today, due to the ban on Palestinian movement, that figure is 45%, with 2,000 agricultural workers supporting approximately 15,000 residents of the occupied city (representing 37.5% of Qalqilya’s total population).

Facts on the Wall Surrounding Qalqilya

The Wall seriously deviates from the Green Line by surrounding the city on all sides on land clearly within the Occupied West Bank.

The Wall to the east of Qalqilya is 8 meters (25 feet) high and made of solid concrete with sniper towers every 300 meters.

The north, south and west sides of the city are surrounded by:

  1. First a trench 4 meters wide and 2 meters deep,
  2. Then razor wire and a fence and
  3. Lastly, a military road patrolled by the Israeli Army.

Since 1 September 2003, Israel has been constructing a “buffer zone” inside Qalqilya where the concrete wall is located. The buffer zone will be 30-70 meters in width. Israel will destroy all Palestinian property (including homes, farms, fields and greenhouses) in the buffer zone.

Four entrances to the city have already been militarily blocked and the remaining entrance has been turned into a militarily fortified gateway with 850 meters of fence, razor wire and trenches surrounding it.

The checkpoint at Qalqilya’s only entrance has been moved an additional 200 meters west into the city, constituting further de facto annexation of Palestinian land and two of the city’s private water wells. On January 2, 2004, the Israeli military announced as part of their “easing of restrictions” that Israeli soldiers would no longer be stationed at the Qalqilya checkpoint. Despite this pledge, the Israeli Army returns almost daily and re-establishes a checkpoint. Furthermore, on November 5, 2003, the Jarjuliya checkpoint was moved an additional 3 km further into the Occupied West Bank. Palestinians wishing to cross the checkpoint (but remain within Occupied Palestinian Territory) must seek permits to “enter Israel.” These new regulations highlight the de facto annexation of Palestinian territory.

In July 2003, Israel completed the construction of the “agricultural gates” in Qalqilya, which, Israel claims, will allow farmers to access their fields. Few farmers have been granted “permits” to access their land (in the Occupied West Bank) through the city’s two agricultural gates (located in northern and southern parts of the city). The gates are often closed for weeks at a time.

On January 11, 2004 the Israeli Army began construction of a tunnel, connecting the village of Habla to Qalqilya. Passage through the tunnel by residents of the surrounding villages to Qalqilya will be governed by the Israeli Army.

Effects of the Wall Surrounding Qalqilya

Of the approximately 15,000 dunums of agricultural land surrounding Qalqilya approximately 7,000 dunums (or 47%) have been confiscated or isolated west of the Wall.

Approximately 15 of the city’s 39 wells have been confiscated or isolated, representing over one-third of the city’s water supply. In addition, the Wall surrounding Qalqilya, together with the rest of the Wall, is built in such a way as to give Israel near total control to the highest productive zones of this aquifer basin.

Residents of Qalqilya have been imprisoned in the town, cut off from neighboring Palestinian villages and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Approximately 60% of Qalqilya’s farmers have been denied permits to access their land through the agricultural gates. The gates are only opened three times a day and are open and closed at the whim of Israeli soldiers. The gates have been closed without warning, often as a form of punishment or to accommodate Jewish religious holidays. For example, both gates were closed from October 4 to October 20 to accommodate the Jewish High Holidays. The northern gate has been closed since October 4, 2003 and never re-opened.

A 27-year-old Palestinian has already been killed attempting to cross the agricultural gates and several Palestinians have been beaten.

Over 600 of Qalqilya’s 1,800 businesses have closed due to the economic siege and lack of agriculture revenue. Due to an unemployment rate of nearly 65%, residents have been unable to pay municipal taxes and bills. As a result, the Qalqilya municipality owes approximately 5 million shekels to the Israeli Electric Company, which has repeatedly threatened to cut off the city’s electrical supply.

Given that 45% of the city’s economy relies on agriculture, land and water confiscation will coerce migration of Qalqilya’s residents eastward, eventually making Israeli annexation of Qalqilya’s land demographically “acceptable”. Already, according to the Qalqilya municipality, 4,000 Qalqilya residents have left the city. An additional 2,000 heads of household have left Qalqilya in order to secure work and support their families who have remained behind in Qalqilya.

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